From growing sustainable food to reforesting, to a new composting scheme and kitchens in shipping containers, there’s clearly going to be something tasty cooking in the new kitchens at Lancaster University. Features Writer Rob Bullock discovers more…
Launched in 2009, Edible Campus is a student-led project created to give everybody at Lancaster University and further afield the opportunity to learn about the benefits of cultivating, sourcing and now eating sustainable food.
BIG CHANGES AFOOT
There are big changes afoot at the Eco Hub at Lancaster University as the Edible Campus Project looks to build on the roots it has put down over the past nine years with an ambitious tree planting scheme, a high tech composting system that will heat their greenhouses and the planned purchase of two shipping containers to create bespoke kitchens in which to cook up a storm. “The Edible Campus scheme here at Lancaster is really going from strength to strength as the University sets the standard for others to follow,” explains Edible Campus Project Supervisor, Paul Todd, “and I strongly believe that institutions have to be change makers.”
Although some were slightly sceptical that the project would succeed when it started in 2009 few would dispute that everyone is now wholeheartedly behind the changes that the student lead project can achieve.
“Originally the University kindly provided the space for the project to get started. We have a large garden at the Eco Hub on campus and the University has got fully behind everything the project stands for.”
Twice a week groups of around 15 to 20 students visit the gardens and they are the ones who determine what to grown and what to make with it.
“Amongst other things, we’re currently growing twelve varieties of chillies,” says Paul, “and from them the students make their own chilli jam which is very popular and really tasty.” As well as the chillies, the students grow potatoes and carrots, courgettes and pumpkins, and a variety of soft fruit; “we also grow something called tomatillos, which is also known as the Mexican husk tomato, which is a green purplish colour and is great for making salsa verde.”
REFORESTING TO HELP FLOODING
On a more serious note, the team are now involved in reforesting to help the environment. Reforesting is something that is becoming increasingly popular in our country and around the world as a means of supporting wildlife and helping to reduce the flooding, something that has impacted our area terribly over recent years.
“The University and the Edible Campus are very aware of the problems that flooding has caused to the city and places like nearby Galgate and one good solution is reforesting. We’ve already planted 1000 trees in one week on the newly acquired forest hills area, next to a nearby golf club and we intend to plant another ten thousand.”
In addition to the reforesting of the forest hills area of the campus, which sits beside the M6, the Edible Campus scheme has supported the introduction of no-mow zones to support and encourage the insects that pollinate the produce that they grow. They are also currently in the process of acquiring two bee hives.
SUPPORT FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY
The scheme supports the local economy by getting their manure from a nearby mushroom farm and supporting a supplier of peat free compost from Penrith who produce compost from unused local sheep wool. “Supporting the local economy is very important to the scheme, just as knowing exactly how many food miles are in your food. Essentially there are no food miles in the produce we grow at the campus. We also support Lancaster Green Spaces and local primary schools who can come along and see how we do things.”
COMPOST AND CONTAINER KITCHENS
The future is looking exciting at the Eco Hub with the introduction of a new composting scheme which will take food waste from both the University kitchens and student kitchens. And as the food waste decomposes and generates heat this is not wasted. It will be used to heat the greenhouses in which the produce is grown!
Apart from the obvious ecological benefits of growing your own organic food the proof is always in the eating. In order to allow the students more culinary freedom Edible Campus are purchasing two used shipping containers which they intend to turn into bespoke kitchens where the team will no doubt create some tasty meals!